A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzabar

A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzibar... Now what is between? For the world wide classical era philatelist and stamp collector, a country specific philatelic survey is offered with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. Interested? So into the Blues...

Friday, June 21, 2013


1920-21 Scott 92 2r on 10k brown & rose
Surcharged in blue, "Warrior slaying Dragon"
Quick History
Latvia (Lettland) was an independent Republic between 1918-1940. The population was 2,000,000 in 1939, and the Capital was Riga.
Map of Latvia
Latvia, like Lithuania and Estonia, the cousin Baltic Republics, managed to gain - and keep- its independence following the aftermath of WW I under the leadership of Karlis Ulmanis and a provisional government.

It wasn't easy.

There was also the Latvian Soviet government backed by the Red Army, and the West Russian Volunteer Army (anti-Bolshevik), which, despite its name, was mostly German.

But the Latvians, with some help from the Estonians, drove the rivals out.
The Baltic Languages
How could a little country with a small population do that? Because Latvia had always managed to keep its culture, musical traditions, and language intact. Latvians are a Baltic people, and speak Latvian, a Baltic language. Lutheranism was traditionally strong because of the historical link to the Nordic countries.

A liberal constitution was developed in 1922.

In 1934, Prime Minister Ulmanis dissolved the constitution, and an authoritarian regime was set up. And although Ulmanis is considered now a national hero by the Latvians, that move is controversial even today.

In 1939, Hitler and Stalin signed a non-aggression agreement. A secret part of the agreement divided Eastern Europe into spheres of influence. Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940, and Ulmanis elected to ask his people not to resist.

The Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic then became a member of the Soviet Union. The Soviet era lasted until August 21, 1991, when the Republic of Latvia was reborn.
1919 Scott 45 35k brown "Liberation of Riga"
Into the Deep Blue
The 2011 Scott Classic Specialized catalogue has, from 1918-1940, 204 regular, 97 semi-postal, 37 air post and air post semi-postal, and 62 German and Russian occupation stamp category descriptions. Total = 400.

Of those, 131 (64%) of regular are CV <$1. The other categories have 53 (27%) with CV <$1-$1+.

Clearly, regular stamps of classical Latvia are generally inexpensive, while the other categories are more costly.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
100 Kapeikas = 1 Rublis
100 Santims = 1 Lat (1923)
December 18, 1918 Scott 1 5c carmine  "Arms"
The first Latvian issue starts off with a bang with one of the more unusual stamp stories.

But first- the motif. It shows a Sun with a sheaf of three rye ears all encircled as unity by a ring that binds. The three rye stalks represent the three important provinces- Vidzeme, Kurzeme, and Latgate.
The stamp were printed on the back of German Military Maps
Map colors are usually brown & black
What is unusual about the first issue? It was printed on the back of German Military maps that were surplus and available. ;-)

The 5c carmine is found both imperforate and perforated.

Turning over one of these stamps and finding part of a map is surprising and pleasing. How delightful! Despite their unusual nature, the CV for these stamps is <$1.

The first stamp issue has design I. The next issue had the design redrawn, and is known as design II.
Design I and Design II- Note the arrows
The major differences is the sheaf of rye ears is thicker for design II, and the sprig of vegetation on the left ground has five leaves rather than four in design II. Noting the design differences is more important than one would think, as design I is used again occasionally in later issues.
1919 Scott 5 15k green "Arms"
Design II
The next issue of three stamps (example illustrated above) is found both imperforate and perforated.

There is again something unusual about this issue.
Paper with ruled horizontal lines
The stamps are printed on paper with widely spaced horizontal ruled lines, as illustrated. (Ignore the cancel which can also be seen.) Fascinating.

The CV is <$1 for imperforate. (My understanding is the stamps were released imperforate, but then a number were perforated. Generally, imperforate specimens are less expensive than perforated, and actually represent the "natural" state they were released, even though Scott also gives the perforated specimens major numbers. For me, an imperforate example is good enough ;-)
1919 Scott 21 20k orange; Scott 23 50k purple (back)
Stamp back is shown to illustrate Pelure paper
The subsequent issue of nine stamps (imperforate and perforate major varieties) is found on Pelure paper. Pelure paper is like cigarette paper, thin and translucent. The CV for imperforate is <$1, while the perforated major varieties are in the dollars. This issue is only found as design II.
1919 Scott 25-33 issue - watermarked 108- "Honeycomb"
Another 1919 issue, this time just imperforate, had nine stamps. CV is <$1.
1919 Scott 27 10k deep blue
Wmk "Honeycomb"
This imperforated issue can be distinguished from the others as it is watermarked with the "Honeycomb". The stamps were only issued as design II.
Watermark 108- "Honeycomb"
It is important to watermark the "Arms" or "Sun" issue  to rule in -or out- the "Honeycomb" stamps.
1920-21 "Arms" issue, unwatermarked, on wove paper
Perforated only, Has both design I and design II stamps
The last "Sun" six stamp issue was a puzzler to me. I had about ten perforated 5k carmines, all design I. But no map on back- so they were not Scott 1. Scott makes no mention in the catalogue about the possibility of both design I and design II stamps for this issue.  Turns out the 5k, 20k, and 5r are design I, while the 20k, 50k, and 75k are design II. ;-)
November 18,1919 issue 
"Allegory of One Year of Independence"
Latvian stamp issues came into their own here- both spectacular and large. For the one year anniversary of independence, a four stamp issue was released. The large 10k brown & rose was produced in both wove and laid paper, and measures 33 X 45 mm. ! CV is <$1.
The Scott 63 1r green & red was printed on the back of unfinished bank notes
A further surprise- the 1r denomination has a blue design on back, as they were printed from bank note paper.  ;-)
1919-20 Scott 65 25k indigo & yellow green
"Warrior Slaying Dragon"
A very spectacular four stamp issue in a large format was released in 1919 to commemorate the liberation of Kurzeme. CV is <$1. As one can imagine, the set was popular with collectors, and sure enough....
The forgery has a "Y" shaped line (black arrow)
"V" shaped line (red arrow)
Forgeries! These counterfeits from Estonian forgers are abundant, so one should check one's own collection. Note carefully the differences at the black and red arrows of the forgery (Enlarge if necessary). Generally, a "Y" shape (black arrow) or a "V" shape (red arrow) drawn line is found on the forgery compared to the genuine copy.
1921-22 Scott 108 10r blue
"Arms and Stars for Vidzeme, Kurzeme, & Latgale"
A 10 stamp issue with a new design was produced in 1921-22. CV is <$1 for 9 stamps.  This set can be distinguished from the next set by the Kapeikas/Rublis valued denominations.
1923-25 Scott 119 12s claret 
Santims/Lat value denominations; wmk "Wavy lines"
The next 17 stamp set looks similar to the preceding issue, except it is valued in Santims/Lat. CV is <$1 for 13 stamps. This set is also characterized by a wmk 181- "Wavy Lines".
1931 Scott 138 3s orange red; wmk "Multiple Swastikas"
From 1927-33, another set with the same design was produced. This 20 stamp issue has 17 stamps with CV <$1. This issue is distinguished by wmk 212- 'Multiple Swastikas".
Wmk- "Wavy Lines"; Wmk- "Multiple Swastikas"
The "Wavy Lines" watermark usually only has one slightly curved vertical line noted on a stamp. The
Swastika" watermark looks rather amateurish- like a homemade tattoo. ;-) 

One should note that in the early 1930s, before the Nazi's gave the symbol the now diabolical meaning, a "Swastika", an equilateral cross with the arms bent at right, was considered a good luck symbol in both the Western world, and the Sanskrit Indian Asian world. No nefarious connotation was ascribed to the symbol: in fact, the opposite. The "Thunder Cross" was used as the marking of the Latvian Air Force between 1918-1934.

I did come across one amusing anecdote in my readings. To avoid a diplomatic embarrassment, for  the 2006 NATO summit in Latvia, the Latvians were asked to not give mittens with the swastika symbol on them as gifts. ;-)
 1927-33 Scott 141 6s green/yellow & Scott 155 6s green/yellow
Back: Scott 144 10s green/yellow & Scott 156 10s green/yellow
Three stamps were either printed on surface paper or paper colored through. The 6s green/yellow, 10s green/yellow, and the 15s brown/salmon are found on either paper; each given a major number by Scott.
1928 Scott 160 20s cerise & blue green
"View of Cesis (Wenden)"
On the 10th anniversary of Latvian independence, a six stamp set with views of Latvian cities was produced. Nice. CV is <$1-$1+ for the stamps.
1934 Scott 178 35s dark blue 
"Ministry of Foreign Affairs"
The six stamp 1934 set has a CV of <$1. Clearly, Latvian stamps were quite popular with collectors, and many must have been saved.
1937 Scott 191 40s light brown "President Karlis Ulmanis"
In 1937, a nine stamp set was released with a portrait of President Ulmanis, in honor of his 60th birthday. CV is <$1-$1+. Recall at this time Ulmanis had assumed dictatorial powers.
1937 Scott 199 40s brown 
"Tomb of Col. Kalpaks"
In 1937, a seven stamp pictorial issue featuring "monuments" was produced. An example is illustrated. CV is <$1-$3+.
1938 Scott 203 20s red lilac "Pres. Karlis Ulmanis"
For the 20th anniversary of the Republic, a seven stamp pictorial set was issued. The illustrated example features President Ulmanis in a rather heroic portrait..
1940 Scott 226 35s bright ultramarine 
"Arms and Stars for Vidzeme, Kurzeme, & Latgale"
A more modern "Arms" design set was issued in 1940, on the eve of the Soviet takeover. CV is <$1 for 10 of the 11 stamps in the set.
Semi-postal 1920 Scott B2 40(55)k dark blue & red
"Mercy" Assisting Wounded Soldiers
 The set is printed on the back of bank notes
Latvia produced a good number of semi-postals (97) during the classical era. The first set was printed on unfinished bank note paper. CV is $1+.
Semi-postal 1920 Scott B10 "Mercy", Imperforate
On pink paper; back shows bank notes
Another set was printed imperforate, on pink paper. The back shows bank notes with a brown, red and green design. ;-)

Rather than illustrating a selection of further semi-postals, I would like to show just the stamps in one set that I find particularly attractive.
1932 Scott B82 1s (11s) violet brown & bluish
Reaching back to local legends of the Latvian people, here Kriva is telling stories under the Holy Oak.
1932 Scott B83 2s (17s) ocher & olive green
The typographed stamp here shows enslaved Latvians building Riga under the knight's supervision.
1932 Scott B84 3s (23s) red brown & orange brown
Rebellion! This is the Hero Lacplesis, the "Bear-slayer", and the Deliverer. "Lacplesis" is an epic poem by the Latvian poet Andrejs Pumpurs, written between 1872-1887.
1932 Scott B85 4s (34s) dark green & green
Death of the Black Knight.
1932 Scott B86 5s (45s) green & emerald
The spirit of Lacplesis over freed Riga.
Air Post 1931-32 Scott C6 10s deep green "Bleriot XI"
The first air post issues of Latvia were in the popular (for collectors) triangular shape. This particular three stamp set is found with a "Swastika" watermark. The CV is <$1-$1+.

Beware of more crudely lithographed forgeries. This is particularly noticeable along the two parallel frame lines around the edge of the stamp, where the ink tends to run together.
1919 Typographed denomination stamps, never released
No (active) numbers assigned in Scott, but ubiquitous in collections
Now we come to an interesting set. These designs- both imperforate and perforate- were ordered in 1919 while the country was struggling with which government was going to rule Latvia. These stamps were prepared on order of Colonel Avalov Bermondt, commander of the Western Russian Volunteer Army. (This army was anti-Bolshevik, and actually mostly German.) But, by the time the stamps arrived, the Latvians under Ulmanis had assumed control. So these stamps, which are considered "occupation" stamps, were never released, but did end up in the stamp market. In fact, a lot of them, as they are found in almost every collection. But Scott withdrew catalogue numbers for them a long time ago (they are not in my 1947 catalogue), as they were never postally used.  

Fair enough. But then the counterfeiters got involved. ;-)
1919 Western Russian Volunteer Army Occupation stamps
The right stamp is a forgery (See arrows)
The counterfeiters then flooded the market with their wares. They are also found both imperforate and perforated. How to tell the difference?
* Black arrow- the forgery has 10 discrete vertical dots on either side of the double eagle central vignette.
The genuine has 9 blurred vertical dots.
* Red arrow- the forgery has a straight horizontal top edge to the value tablet. The genuine has a wavy line-usually with a dip in the center- on the horizontal top edge of the value tablet. Also, the forgery's double eagle vignette's "eagles tail" does not touch the upper horizontal line above the value tablet.The genuine specimen shows the eagle tail touching the upper line. 

(Thanks to Varro Tyler's "Focus on Forgeries" edition 2000 book for the information on Latvian forgeries described in this post.)
Russian occupation 1940 Scott 2N47 3s orange vermilion
"Arms of Soviet Latvia"
It is fitting to end this post with the Russian occupation issue of 1940. Latvia, and its two million population, was then absorbed into the Soviet sphere.

The 13 stamp issue has a CV of <$1-$1+ for 1 stamps.

Latvia would then be part of the U.S.S.R. for the next 51 years.

Deep Blue
1927-33 "Arms and Stars, Coat of Arms" in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has Lativia spread out over 33 pages, and follows the Scott catalogue for layout and major numbers.

Two issues....
• One will accumulate forgeries (as I have), and therefore quadrilled page(s) will need to be added to hold them.
• Since Scott does not have active numbers for the 1919 Western Russian Volunteer Army Occupation stamps, the Steiner does not provide spaces either. ;-)  (This is not always the case, and Steiner has provided spaces at times for other countries whose stamps now are also unrecognized.) And, no doubt, one will also have forgeries of this set. ;-) So, another quadrilled page will be needed.
1927-33 Scott 152 1 lat dark brown & pale brown
"Coat of Arms"
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on 5 pages, has 150 spaces for regular, semi-postal, air post, and occupation stamps.
Coverage (minus the 8 occupation stamps which do not have numbers in Scott) is 36%.

• Overall, I was pleased with BB's selection. And no stamps crossed the $10 CV threshold.
• The 1918-21 "Arms" issue is particularly challenging in BB because the issue has multiple choices for a space-  perforate/imperforate, paper, watermark, and 2 designs The 5k carmine space has 8 choices-possibly a new record for Big Blue. ;-)
• The 1923-33 "Arms" issue often will have two choices for a space because of different watermarks. Also, be aware of surface/paper colored through differences on some stamps.
• Also, for the 1921-33 "Arms" issue ( and not mentioned before), there are several instances of two "types" of denominations because of a change in number shape. Consult Scott for specifics.
•Big Blue does include spaces for the 8 occupation stamps that have no active number in the Scott catalogue- and check for forgeries. ;-)


3k lilac- 9,17,25,
5k carmine- 1,2,3,6,10,18,26,76,
10k deep blue- 11,19,27,
15k dark green- 12,20,28,
20k orange- 13,21,29,78,
25k gray- 13A,30,
35k dark brown- 14,22,31,
50k purple- 15,23,32,

43 or 49, 44 or 50, 45 or 51,55 or 56, (57),
 61*, 62,64,65,(66) 

Next Page


113, 114 or 136, 115 or 139, 116 or 140, 117 or 141, 118, 119,
120, 146 or 147, 148, 150, 151, 126,


138,142,144 or 156, 144 or 157, 149, 127,


Next Page



Next Page


B1 or B5 or B9, B2 or B6 or B10, B3 or B7 or B11, B4 or B8 or B12,



Next Page

(Semi- Postal)


Air Post
C1,C4 or C7,C2,C5,

Occupation Stamps*


A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold): None
B) (  ) around a number indicates a  blank space choice.
C) *1918-21 issue has myriad choices for each space based on perforate/imperforate, paper, watermark, and 2 designs. Some stamps are excluded because of BB's color criteria.
D) *61- the larger size 59 and 60 are excluded, as they are much larger and would not fit the space.
E) *Air Post 1921-31- some choices are excluded because of (denomination value) illustration or color specification.
F) *Occupation stamps-Remember the occupation stamps have no active number in the Scott catalogue- and check for forgeries.
1932 Scott B88 7s (35s) dark blue green & dark blue
"Infantry in Action"
Out of the Blue
I have a new favorite country. ;-)

Note: Maps appear to be in the public domain.

A comment is appreciated!


  1. Excellent. Love the tidbits about forgeries. Got to check some of my copies... ;)

    A question... How does BB handle the various perforation varieties of "Arms and stars" issues? I know both Scott and Michel provide somewhat simplified listing for them, but Steiner pages omit the varieties completely. They are a fascinating field of specialized research providing hours of cheap fun. Such a shame that common catalogs have neglected them to such extend.


  2. Hi Keijo

    Thanks. :-)

    Steiner follows the Scott catalogue, and if not a major number, usually no space is provided. (There are exceptions, and I generally point them out if Steiner provides spaces for Scott minor numbers for a country.)

    The 2011 Scott Classic Specialized catalogue lists Perf 10, 11 1/2, and compound for the 1921-22 "Arms and Stars" series, and Perf 10,11,11 1/2 for the 1923-25 series. But Scott does not go into more specifics.... No minor numbers, no other information. :-(

    BB, which provides even less spaces than the Steiner album generally, of course is silent on this.

    Obviously,this is indeed a neglected area for the Scott catalogue.

  3. Thanks Jim, I learned about your article from the Echoes, come here and enjoyed reading.
    I read and speak Latvian a little, in case someone of our GESS community needs.

  4. Uladzimar- thanks for the note and I will keep it in mind that you understand some Latvian. I get comments from all over the world, but you are the first one from the local community. :-)

  5. Finally after much searching I have been able to identify stamps I have of the 1919 Occupation unissued stamps. Not quite the full set but still fascinating - 7 imperforate stamps. My late Uncle was in the Western Russian Volunteer Army and I have a document citing the St. George Cross he was awarded in the Latvian conflict. Are these stamps of value to anyone? Thank you ahead.

  6. Interesting family history- thank you for sharing.

    The occupation stamps are quite common and inexpensive- but the real story - and this is worth much more- is that they tell a fascinating historical tale.

  7. Great informative research...Thanks !!

  8. I've had those 1919 stamps for ages an never knew about the forgeries,

    1. I'm sure there are stamps in my collection that are forgeries and I still have a blissful unawareness. :-)